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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Alice Battle, February 20, 2001. Interview K-0523. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Light-skinned African Americans receive preferential treatment

Battle believes that light-skinned African Americans received better treatment not only from blacks but also from whites. Even at Lincoln High School, light-skinned students were more likely to win contests, Battle thinks. This kind of discrimination was part of a wider posture of subservience African Americans sometimes adopted in segregated society.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Alice Battle, February 20, 2001. Interview K-0523. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

BG: Did you perceive that impression within the black community itself? Certainly there was prejudice from white to black, but how about within the black community itself? AB: Yes, light skinned people got preferential treatment it seemed to me. BG: Whom did they get the preferential treatment from? AB: Like running for May Queen, running for Miss Lincoln High School that kind of thing or Miss OCTS. It seemed like they were light skinned girls, the majorettes, the band, and that kind of thing. BG: How did you interpret that or did you even think about that? AB: Yes, I thought about it. BG: What did you think about it? AB: Like I know she’s going to win because she’s light skinned. BG: I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but let me share with you what someone has said to me and my interpretation of it. There was some resentment and it was that the role model for what was beautiful was a white woman and looking back on it is that the way you saw the fact that light skinned blacks were treated preferentially is that they looked more like whites? AB: Yes. Now when there was a football game and there would be traffic jams and they would just be moving slow and we would say, “That’s me.” We’d look in a car and see a white woman all dressed up and of course they dressed up then. When I went to college you dressed up to go to a football game. “Oh, that’s me. That’s my car.” So, yes, it had a lot to do with that. BG: Were there any other prejudices of family or economics that you saw in the African American community? AB: I just couldn’t understand why Aunt Alice would say, “yes ma’am, no sir,” and I would say to her, “Why do you say that? She’s real young and she’s almost younger than I am. Why do you say that?” She would say, “Honey, I live in a different world from you.” I think Mr. Frank asked her why someone that was visiting would say something like it’s snowing outside and it’s not snowing and why she’d say, “Yes, sir.” She said, “Let me tell you, Mr. Frank, if I disagree with that man he will probably not give me a tip, but if I agree with him he’s going to give me a big tip.” It may not have been as obvious as snowing and it’s not that she would agree with. BG: So your economic welfare depended on subservience in a way. AB: She said those things but she was not subservient. She spoke her mind. She never felt like--. “We’re blueblood.” She would often, with her interaction, let them know that she was better than you.